Just for a change this was one of those weeks where the most interesting battle of the week took place on the album chart rather than the singles ranking. Which big new release would win the day - effortless cool, or reheated 90s teen pop?
In the event it turns out to be the latter. However little long-term interest there appears to be in their singles, Boyzone still know how to make an album launch an event and so their brand new offering Brother debuts at the very top - assisted almost certainly by the occasion of Mothers Day last weekend and the album's eminent suitability as a maternal gift. Brother is their first full collection of new material for 12 years, their 2008 comeback being marked by the Greatest Hits album Back Again... No Matter What which featured a token three new tracks alongside their older recordings. The album is duly the fifth Number One album from Boyzone, their first since their "farewell" hits collection By Request hit the top in June 1999. Unusually every single one of these chart-topping albums entered at the top, even their 1995 debut Said And Done which had its sole week of glory upon first release in September 1995.
Boyzone's success means that Gorillaz are left for the moment with a Number 2 entry for their third album proper Plastic Beach. Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's animated concept group have to date only once before had a Number One album, this being 2005 offering Demon Days. Plastic Beach is actually the fifth Gorillaz album to chart, the extras thanks to the G-sides and D-sides collections of b-sides, bonus tracks and remixes that came out in 2002 and 2007 respectively. Plastic Beach has been trailed by the pre-release single Stylo which has been available to download since the end of January. Its absence from the singles chart is thanks to its violation of the Viva La Vida rule, Stylo having been pushed out as an advance download to pre-release purchasers of Plastic Beach and thus chart ineligible until now.
This week's singles chart is actually the first one in history whose content doesn't come as a total surprise. This is thanks to the unveiling during the week of the first ever midweek update, the Wednesday afternoon Radio One exclusive which gives a "sneak preview" of the forthcoming chart based on sales up to that point. Thus it was that most clued up chart fans will have been aware that the big chart battle of the week involved Justin Bieber and his attempt to gatecrash the Top 3.
Any hopes that this advance teaser may have heated up the race at the top end of the chart a little will have been dashed by the way the finished article closely resembles its midweek predecessor. Thus there is no change in the Top 2 singles, with Tinie Tempah sitting comfortably at Number One for a second week with Pass Out, leaving Rihanna trailing with what will now almost certainly wind up as her sixth Number 2 single Rude Boy.
It leaves bright eyed Canadian teen star Justin Bieber with the non too shabby consolation prize of a Number 3 entry for his new single Baby. A significant jump on the Number 11 peak of his first single One Time, it appears to reflect his ever growing popularity amongst a gaggle of star-struck teenage girls. Make no mistake, this isn't pop music designed for anyone no longer in need of a training bra. The single is itself something of a head scratcher as it is competently made pop R&B of the kind that would not sound out of place on a Chris Brown album, it is just that rather than being performed by a hard as nails credible star the song instead emerges from the high pitched pipes of an adolescent. Being totally out of his target market for any number of reasons, you can understand why I struggle to actually find a reason to want to hear the record. Make no mistake though, Justin Bieber and his continuing success is of monumental importance to an ever frantic music industry. Like it or not, the irritating little turd is captivating the hearts and minds of a whole new generation of impressionable young record buyers. Just remember that the Boyzone album buyers of today were once upon a time the 90s analogue of today's Bieber maniacs.
Baby incidentally features a non too incongruous rap from Ludacris who must surely have needed the money. [My word, I really did have the knives out for this record that day.] The single is only the second time he has featured on a Top 3 hit in the UK, his last such venture coming in March 2004 when he guest starred on Usher's Number One hit Yeah.
Two other new singles arrive neatly inside the Top 10 this week with a returning Gabriella Cilmi leading the charge with On A Mission landing at Number 9. The Australian singer is best known for her 2008 single Sweet About Me which may have only peaked at Number 6 but which enjoyed a 37 week run in the Top 75 as well as being one of the first singles to flop on first physical release but subsequently become a huge hit as a download long after the CD version had vanished from the shops. Those who only know her either for that record or her seasonal recording Warm This Winter which has achieved a kind of ubiquity thanks to its use by the Co-Op for TV commercials over the past two years will find On A Mission something of a shock to the system. Despite talk that her forthcoming second album would see her moving in a more R&B direction the new single is in fact a glorious and energetic 1980s Hi-NRG romp. Borrowing the speeded up bassline from Joe Jackson's Steppin' Out and drenched in the most retro of disco synths, On A Mission is a track straight out of the neon lit nightclubs of 1981. There was always a risk that she would miss the boat here, as 80s revivalism was just so 2009, but make no mistake this record works on every single level. Best pop hit of the year so far beyond a doubt. [And all but forgotten ever since. My proud record of tipping utter dogs of singles continues].
One place behind at Number 10 is the much welcomed charted debut of My Name by London singer Anthony McLean, who as the bold tags indicate trades under his surname alone. His first single Broken actually came out as long ago as 2007 and has remained a viral hit ever since thanks to a constant presence on YouTube and MySpace. His first ever hit is sweet and appealing, but at the risk of invoking the same comparison within a few paragraphs is in fact all but indistinguishable from anything that Chris Brown might produce. In fact for My Name read Forever as the two singles are closely related both in terms of musical style and lyrical theme. One can applaud the arrival on the chart of a hot new British soul star and appreciate a good pop record for what it is, but when it is little more than a thematic retread of a single already acknowledged as a modern day classic it isn't too wrong to hope he has more to offer than this.
The good old fashioned highest climber of the week is Telephone from Lady Gaga which suddenly vaults 31-12. Always one of the stronger tracks from The Fame Monster, Telephone at Number 30 in December last year upon the release of the expanded album. Having picked up airplay ahead of a single release, the track reappeared for a wander around the lower end of the Top 40 a couple of weeks ago, held back by the fact that as merely a cut from an already massive selling album there was little incentive for most people to download a copy. Her melancholy and self-indulgent performance of the track at the Brit Awards ceremony didn't help its causal appeal either. The change this week comes as the track becomes a single proper, with yet another eye-catching video released this week and perhaps more importantly a full set of remixes and it is almost certainly these new versions which have finally helped Telephone to start ringing, so to speak. The single features a guest turn from Beyonce who is actually charting as a guest star for only the second time in her career - her first second billing since her turn on Jay-Z's 03 Bonnie And Clyde seven years ago.
Finally we should note that the most ubiquitous artist of the week could well be will.i.am. Not only is he producer of Cheryl Cole's hit Parachute (up to Number 8 this week) and a performer on the Black Eyed Peas single Rock That Body (a climber at Number 15) it is also a fairly open secret that he is the mysterious Zuper Blaqh who is the credited guest star on the Steve Aoki single I'm In The House which is the final new entry of the week at Number 29. Good job he gave us that little nugget of talkability really, otherwise there would be little coherent to say about the mindless dance record.